Recommended: Collaborations by the Kintners

The first line says it all: “I’m spinning in squares, not circles.”

Translation: We’re doing something new with the old, familiar forms.

Even before that telling first line, the sound of scratchy vinyl and a cinematic blend of brass and strings conveys a similar message: A spinning record translated to the ones and zeros of the digital realm, a circle transmogrified into a seemingly infinite string of binary squares. Is it past, or is it future?

The album, by the way, is called Collaborations, and it’s quite excellent. Front and center are the complementary vocals of Kelly and Keri Kintner. Kelly has a rough-hewn, soulful, earthy voice reminiscent of the late, great Rick Danko of The Band (and a bit of Kenny Rogers as well), while Keri sings in a voice that calls to mind Linda Ronstadt. In short, if you like 70s country rock, you’ll love this album.

Yet even as a country-rock vibe provides the sonic foundation of this wonderful album, the Kintners, with the help, as the title suggests, of some extremely talented collaborators, are also eager to branch out into other musical styles. The horns and strings on the aforementioned opening track, “Keep Me Around,” for example, call to mind indie-rock darlings Belle and Sebastian, while the soaring, searing bluesy guitar of “Keep Me Around” offers a visceral echo of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. And be sure to give some special attention to the jazzy piano in “Two Weeks” featuring Charu Suri.

As for lyrics, the Kintners deliver vivid, heartfelt stories of real people living real lives. Often lonely but never hopeless, they populate the small, private spaces of our day-to-day lives: the front seat of the car, the hotel bar, the back roads we all travel.

The truly amazing feat of this album is that it conveys a sense of intimacy despite the fact that (I imagine, anyway) its contributors, with the exception of Kelly and Keri, were rarely, if ever, in the same room together. Sure, it’s common for musicians these days to shoot files halfway around the world to each other, but something – the magic of musicians playing off each other in real time, let’s say – usually gets lost in the process. It’s like trying to capture the same bolt of lightning in two separate bottles, but it’s a feat the Kintners manage to pull off with warmth and grace.

Review by Marc Schuster

“Before the Boys”

I recorded a new song over Spring Break. It’s called “Before the Boys.” I recorded it at my sister-in-law’s cabin in Saugerties, NY, a stone’s throw away from Big Pink, the house where Bob Dylan and the Band recorded a couple of iconic albums. The song is about a free-spirited eleven-year-old girl who becomes self-conscious when someone pulls her aside and tells her to be more reserved and feminine because “boys are watching.” It’s told from the point-of-view of the eight-year-old boy who is crushed when the girl gives up her tomboy ways. It will be available on streaming services by the end of the month. In the meantime, here’s a link to the song on Bandcamp: https://marcschuster.bandcamp.com/releases

In the Pink

It’s hard to say where this all started.

I emailed Jen and Jeff a few weeks back and asked them to record a drum track for me so I could build a song around it. Then Jen asked what tempo I wanted, and I said something vague like “I don’t know… Somewhere between 110 and 120 beats per minute?” Then Jen said something like, “So 117.24985?” Which I said would be perfect since that’s always been my lucky number.

So they recorded the track, and I didn’t do anything with it for about a week. But then there was a massive thunderstorm, and my gutter got clogged, so I went out on the roof to see if I could clear the downspout. When I came back in, I realized that if anyone saw me out on the roof, they might think I was crazy — and would likely be correct in their assessment, but for all the wrong reasons. That’s when the first lines of the song came to me: “If there’s a reason I’m up on the roof, it’s not the reason that you think.”

Given the state of the world these days, the song quickly took an apocalyptic turn, and I imagined someone looking out on a world with dead streets and fire in the sky. Of course, that imagery was kind of dark, so I lightened the proceedings with a chorus that I’d written a year or so earlier: “I keep seeing angels in the corner of my eye.” I distinctly remember that I was making an espresso when that line came to me, but beyond that and another line about the angels being devils in disguise, the lyrics never went anywhere.

So, arguably, the song started back when those two lines came to me. But there’s a further complication: As I was working on the song, I realized that I needed an instrumental bridge for the middle. That’s when I remembered an instrumental track that I’d written and recorded a while back called “Poly the Glot.” It had the perfect instrumental break for this new one. Or almost perfect, anyway. I had to change the key and make some other minor adjustments.

Since no one had really heard “Polly” except for a handful of people, I didn’t think anyone would mind that I was pillaging my back catalog for the sake of new material. So while I was at it, I took some interesting sound effects from that track as well — a lot of the electronic screeching you hear throughout the track originally appeared (in another key) on “Polly the Glot” as well.

Oh, I forgot to mention that when I started recording the song, I decided that “between 110 and 120 beats per minute” wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so I sped Jeff’s track up a bit and ended up with a tempo of 142 beats per minute. And to sweeten the deal, I got my friend Tony Yoo involved. He’s the one you can hear singing backing vocals on the chorus.

In any case, “In the Pink” could have started on any number of occasions: Back in 2015 or so when I recorded “Poly the Glot,” a few years later when I was making espresso and the chorus came to me, a few weeks ago when I asked Jen and Jeff to record a drum track for me, or the afternoon I went out on my roof to clear the gutter during a thunderstorm. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy listening to it!